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Important Gmail Changes for Businesses to Know About

Posted by jtolman to Marketing Tips on January 15th, 2014

From SEO to Adwords, Google is a constantly changing entity, which is why there has never been a more important time to understand the recent changes of Google.

Have you noticed anything different in your Gmail account lately?  Chances are that a good majority of your customers do.  Google has been making several changes to their email platform, which is creating changes for businesses using email-marketing strategies and the customer’s ability to receive those emails.

Anyone can email other Google+ users without knowing their email address.

One change in particular allows anyone with a Google+ account to use Gmail to email any one in his or her Google+ circles.  The sender will not see the other person’s email until he or she replies.  However, Google knows their email and will route it directly to their inbox.  Currently, this only works on the desktop version of Gmail.  By default anyone can add a Google+ user to their circle without their permission and gain access to this messaging system.

In order to change who can email you via Google+, you will need to change your settings in Gmail. 

1.  On a computer: Open Gmail. Then, click the gear in the top right and select Settings.  On a phone or tablet: Click this link.

2.  Scroll down to the Email via Google+ section (stay in the “General” tab).

3.  Click the drop-down menu and choose one of the options:

  • Anyone on Google+: If you have a Google+ account, anyone who has you in their circles can send you an email. You can decide whether to allow future emails. See who has you in their circles.
  • Extended circles: People who are part of your circles’ circles can email you, such as a friend of one of your friends.
  • Circles: Only people you’ve added to your circles can email you. See who is in your circles.
  • No one: Only people who have your email address can email you. For example, if a Google+ connection tries to email you and they don’t know your email address, your name won’t appear as a contact suggestion in Gmail.

4.  Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

There is also a change in the tabs of Gmail, which will automatically distribute emails to certain folders.  Messages from other user’s on Google+ that is not in a circle or an extended circle will go straight to the “Social” tab.  If a person is in your circles or you have replied to a previous email from them, that email will be distributed to the “Primary” tab.

Gmail’s new tabs have the potential to hinder email open rates.

The new addition of tabs has caused quite a stir and made marketers nervous about the affect this may have on open rates of email marketing campaigns.  However, Google has assured users that this should not affect the conversion rates.  Rather, this change just allows Gmail users to open their emails at a more convenient time for them.

Although Google believes that this will not negatively impact email marketing, many businesses are worried that it already has.  Since the switch to the new tabs, less than 0.1% of Gmail users moved promotional emails into their primary inbox for easy viewing (ReturnPath).

Groupon’s CEO Eric Lefkofsky said that Google’s rearranging has hurt Groupon’s mail open rates.  He did carefully point out that Gmail isn’t the only reason for the steep drop in open rates.  Lefkofsky said, “It did have an effect on our open rates, and it is part of the story.”

Econsultancy reported that highly engaged users will now be even more engaged than ever before with the addition of tabs.  ReturnPath discovered that just 1 week after implementation, open rates increased dramatically for consumers who previously had a high level of engagement with the brand.

Email images are no longer hidden from Gmail users.

Gmail previously hid the images from unknown senders in order to protect Gmail users from security compromises.  Now, Gmail users will automatically see the images without having to press the “Show Images” button at the top of the message.

Google product manager, John Rae-Grant, explains the change in a new post on the Gmail blog saying, “Instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers.”

The change could mean great things for businesses and marketers.  Gmail users will see images right away rather than having to opt-in to see the images.  Google reports that using email will be “safer, faster and more beautiful than ever.”  In turn, this change should make Gmail users more inclined to look at the emails that businesses are sending their way, due to a more positive experience.

Emails that include visual content, particularly in newsletters or promotional emails, will likely have a better response rate.  By eliminating a step in the process of seeing the images, it will make it easier for Gmail users to respond to emails faster than ever before.

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